Carrie Elkin and Danny Schmidt: For Keeps

Carrie Elkin & Danny Schmidt
For Keeps
(Red House)
3 out of 5 stars

Videos by American Songwriter

The debut release of these Texas based, once-solo performers, now joined professionally and personally—a picture of their interlocked hands is the back cover photo—is a pleasant, folksy collaboration of two like-minded musicians. Songs are written by one or the other, not jointly, and are evenly split by the couple at five each. The two are on the same page musically which, despite the vocal tradeoff, lessens the impact of a set that stays firmly locked in a confessional, singer-songwriter groove.

Individually, lovely ballads such as Elkins’ “Swing from a Note” and Schmidt’s “Company of Friends,” both sung by the other vocalist, are terrific examples of smart wordplay and the laid back, unplugged musical approach favored by the couple. But there aren’t enough upbeat moments such as the strummy, easy blowing opening “Two White Clouds” to keep the vibe balanced throughout. The meditative, swampy and darker edged “Echo in the Hills” could have come off Emmylou Harris’ “Wrecking Ball,” yet more of these would be needed to push this into the rarefied territory that classic album holds. Ending the disc with three slow moving ballads, even if they are all beautifully rendered, also doesn’t help the flow.

There is no denying the chemistry here and the sheer quality and craftsmanship of these two veteran troubadours who are literate and poetic without falling into the cloying pretentiousness that often sinks similar joint couple projects. Next time, each needs to push the other past their comfort zone for a more compelling result.

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